Subjects: Queensland election, Bennelong by-election, Manus Island, Turnbull Government.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Welcome to the program.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good evening Patricia. We of course we should be sitting this week. It’s a fact that it has been in the schedule for some time and it is quite extraordinary that the Government has put its hand up and said: We don’t have anything worth discussing as an agenda for this week. We’re going to wait for the Senate to deal with the issue of marriage equality and then and only then will we bother to convene the House of Representatives.
KARVELAS: Well, let’s start by analysing the Queensland result first. This isn’t a good result for either of the major parties. Of course, no doubt you are going to focus on the LNP and of course it has been not great for the LNP. But it’s not a great result for Labor either. In fact I think it shows that the electorate is quite grumpy with the major parties. Isn’t that still the case?
ALBANESE: Patricia, this is an extraordinary result for the Labor Party and for Annastacia Palaszczuk and her team. What we have seen is that Labor has increased the number of electorates that they will hold in the Queensland Parliament. They are likely to be in a position to form a majority government. They have won seats like Redlands in the east of Brisbane. They have held on against a One Nation push in places like Ipswich; against a Greens Party push in places like Brisbane’s south where the Greens concentrated all their efforts on trying to get rid of Jackie Trad. I mean, every effort was concentrated. People came in from interstate to try and remove a progressive minister and indeed Deputy Premier in the Queensland Government in Jackie Trad.
And of course for the LNP this is a debacle and they deserved the thumping that they got over issues like Scott Emerson – we’ve seen the Shadow Treasurer probably lose his seat. He’s one of the people I signed an agreement with the build Cross River Rail way back in 2013 and they went to this election saying that they would scrap Cross River Rail that is so important for Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, that will expand the capacity of the network. So I think this is a good result for Labor. Any election where you win is a good result, I assure you.
KARVELAS: OK, but there is a disruption in politics. You can see it too. I mean, you know, the numbers don’t lie. There has been a swing against Labor and you might say that it is better than any other alternative if Labor can form Government, but either way we are seeing a very significant vote for the Greens, also for One Nation. There is a splintering of the vote, isn’t there?
ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that the major parties would both try to lift their primary vote and certainly Labor will certainly continue to concentrate on that, whether it is at the state level or at the national level. We want to see people going for the Labor Party. But the truth is that Labor didn’t lose any seats to the Greens in this election. The truth is that this comes off the back of remember, we’ve had a minority Government under Annastacia Palaszczuk over the entire period in which she successfully defeated Campbell Newman’s Government after one term. So we had a few factors there. One, they went from not being able to form a cricket team into forming a Government. That has meant that many first-time Members have had to fill the Cabinet positions. Now those people will be far more experienced in their second term.
Annastacia Palaszczuk ran an extraordinary campaign. Her confidence is building. It’s the first time that we have seen a female Premier re-elected in this nation. She has now successfully won two elections from essentially a start of almost oblivion when she took over the leadership of the Opposition.
And you have some outstanding people coming through. I spent some time in Queensland and there’s no doubt that you’ve got some very, very good ministers there – people like Jackie Trad and Cameron Dick and Kate Jones and others in key portfolios. But you have also got, I think, people who, having had the experience of a term under their belt, will really step up in the second term. So I think that Queensland is in a position to really nail it in this term. It has been difficult in their first term. They didn’t have the numbers to do things that they wanted to do like deal with the land-clearing issue.
KARVELAS: OK. Let me take you to another election I know you are watching very keenly. In fact I saw you right there this week and that is Bennelong. Malcolm Turnbull was campaigning today and he pointed out that Kristina Keneally wrote an article for The Guardian advocating Australia take the Manus Island refugees and he says that it is going to lead to the people smuggling trade opening up. Isn’t this potent argument against Labor, that the issue of the boats restarting and divisions in the Labor Party on this issue of asylum seekers. I mean, this is a genuine issue in the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: You know what the potent issue is out there – the failure of the Government to even pretend that they are governing. Here you have Malcolm Turnbull, who has been part of the Government now for more than four years, essentially acting like an Opposition Leader. What is he doing to provide security and certainty for the people who are on Manus and on Nauru? Manus was opened up as a processing centre on a temporary basis. That is, that people would be processed and then settled in third countries. More than four years later you have a human rights catastrophe going on there. You have I think a great deal of concern in the national community, but also I think internationally people are looking at Australia and are wondering what is going on here when the Government seems oblivious to the crisis that is going on in Manus. They need to come up with a solution.
KARVELAS: Peter Dutton has attacked Labor for saying that the New Zealand plan, the offer of 150 refugees a year, should be adopted. He says that that is basically going to be marketed by the people smugglers. Now Labor has been in this position before. Are you wary about that? Are you worried that it could be used and marketed by people smugglers?
ALBANESE: You know who has been in this position before Patricia? John Howard, the former Member for Bennelong when he was Prime Minister. People from the Tampa were settled in New Zealand. They stayed there. They are still there today. That was what John Howard did. He also of course brought people to Australia. That is what the Howard Government did, in spite of all of the rhetoric about these people wouldn’t settle anywhere and wouldn’t be dealt with. The fact is that people were brought to Australia and in particular, relevant here, is they were brought to New Zealand.
So this sort of nonsense campaign from the Government once again forgetting that they are actually in a position of authority here, acting like they are part of an Opposition. They have the power. They also have the responsibility to provide solutions and what do we see from them? We see from them every time something is asked of them they speak about Labor. Well, we are in our second term of Opposition, unfortunately. But what we have with the Government at the moment is behaving like an Opposition in exile; like they have no responsibility for anything that is going on and they are not coming up with solutions. And very clearly the situation on Manus is unacceptable. It needs to be dealt with by the Government and the Government is simply failing.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us tonight.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Patricia.
SUNDAY, 26 NOVEMBER, 2017
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.